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Battling climate change with pond hockey



The glorious winter weather in Helsinki provided the backdrop as teams battled for victory in a pond hockey tournament to fight climate change in February. Pond hockey is a sport for gentlemen and ladies where the only gear required is good cheer, an ice hockey stick and skates. In Finland, this North American sport is referred to as pipolätkä, or beanie hockey.

Even though the temperature on the day of the tournament was an optimal –5°C, we had to move the round-robin games of the tournament from Kaisaniemi’s natural ice to the artificial Kallio Ice Rink due to the plus-temperature weather experienced earlier on in the week. This underscores the message of the tournament: pond hockey is in danger.

My friend Atte Harjanne from the Finnish Meteorological Institute confirms our worries. According to Atte, climate change affects pond hockey in a particularly bad way, since the climate is warming up most rapidly in the north, especially affecting the winter months. He calls for a worldwide cuts in emissions, which would ensure future generations will get to play on natural ice too. “Without emission cuts, skates will be replaced by trainers within a few decades. The change could be even faster, since the increasingly cloudy weather will even out internal variations within days, reducing the amount of freezing weather more rapidly than the increase in average temperature,” he tells me.

A total of 16 teams participated in our tournament, with each team made up of between four and ten players. The majority of the teams hailed from Helsinki, but teams from Jyväskylä and Korvaluoma also attended to spice things up. To our great pleasure, a team comprised of Canadian expats living in Finland also participated in their spiffy lumberjack outfits. The top four teams advanced from the preliminary rounds at the Kallio Ice Rink to the playoffs, played at the Icepark, perfectly located next to Helsinki railway station.

After the final results are in, the proceeds from our tournament will be donated in full to the fight against climate change. But even more important than the funds was the creation of a lasting link between joyful winter sports and the battle against climate change. It was great to see how a big bunch of us rugged ice hockey guys was willing to side with the earth and against climate change, and how many companies large and small jumped in to support the tournament and its message.

We only have around two months to go until the Finnish parliamentary elections and much less than a year until Paris Climate Change Conference. What other fun ways could there be to remind ourselves and others of this, the greatest challenge facing humanity? How can we best express our worries?

Photographs from the tournament can be found using the hashtag #SavePondHockey.

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